With Social Security, Medicare, and lots of other government programs, isn't poverty among older people a thing of the past?
NO. While the proportion of older people (65+) living below the poverty level has declined significantly since 1960 to about 10.5 percent, this index rather dramatically underestimates need. The poverty level is based on an estimate of the cost of items in the Department of Agriculture's least costly nutritionally adequate food plan and multiplied by three (suggesting that food costs represent one-third of a budget). This is probably not a fair representation of living costs in many areas of the country, particularly urban areas. Therefore, gerontologists and economists also look at the proportion near poverty level (up to 150 percent of poverty level) and find that nearly one-quarter of older adults fall below this line. These older people tend to be disproportionately women, unmarried (including widowed), African American or Hispanic, and living alone.
Linda Breytspraak, Center on Aging Studies, University of Missouri-Kansas City
Last update: Monday, July 07, 2008